November 20, 2018
Cocktail Talk: Shoot the Piano Player
Wow, I haven’t had a lot of David Goodis on here (I think just one Goodis post) – which is a shame, cause I love his work. Maybe it’s just too downbeat? Maybe when they drink it feels almost, oh, the opposite of the jolly drinking I tend to applaud? Maybe it’s just bad timing? – nearly all of his characters have a lot of bad timing. But he (though not as revered here in the U.S. as he should be, or maybe not as well-known is a better way to put it, as his devotees are devoted, and I say U.S. cause he’s bigger in France, where most of his books have been made into movies, and where the only scant biography of him has been published) is a subtle master of pacing and language, and an obvious master of writing about the down and out and the nowhere to go and the last chance has already faded into the past, the back alleys and longshores and shabby bars that become nearly family for those who inhabit their shady, scruffy, barstools to nowhere. Shoot The Piano Player may be his best-known book, or at least one with Dark Passage the other, as it was made into a movie by François Truffaut, and it’s a worthy read unless you’re looking for some sort-of peppy ending. Lots of it centers around a bar, Harriet’s Hut. Not the nicest place, but a popular joint, as the below description tells us.
At the bar the Friday night crowd was jammed three-and-four-deep. Most of the drinkers wore work pants and heavy-soled work shoes. Some were very old, sitting in groups at the tables, their hair white and their faces wrinkled. But their hands didn’t tremble as they lifted beer mugs and shot glasses. They could still lift a drink as well as any Hut regular, and they held their alcohol with a certain straight-seated dignity that gave them the appearance of venerable elders at a town meeting.
—Shoot the Piano Player, David Goodis